Challenging Aspects of Adjusting to Graduate Studies

QUESTION:

What do you think are the most challenging aspects of adjusting to graduate studies and what advice would you offer a new grad student?

 

SALMON SAYS:

Adjusting to graduate studies as a new grad student, like adjusting to any new situation in life, can be challenging.  Navigating the transition from student to scholar requires confidence, discipline, passion, curiosity, tenacity, and resilience. What each student finds most challenging, however, will vary based on their situation and personality, and may change as they progress through the key milestones of coursework, comps, research, and writing.

My advice as you begin this journey is this: never be afraid to ask questions or to seek help along the way!  Ask your advisor about specific expectations. Ask your program director about milestones, deadlines, and funding.  Look for opportunities for professional development and training.  Talk honestly with your peers about the things you find exciting and frustrating about your work.  Make friends with people outside your discipline to inspire new perspectives.  And if you are struggling, don’t suffer in silence – find someone you trust and ask for help.

At Notre Dame, we have a rich constellation of services and resources to support the success and wellness of our graduate students.  The links below are just a few:

http://graduateschool.nd.edu/professional_development/
http://gradlife.nd.edu/
http://ucc.nd.edu/
http://sao.nd.edu/groups/categories.html#Graduate

Additionally, there are several helpful online resources for graduate students.  I recommend:

http://gradresources.org/

Incoming Grad Students & Social Media

Many incoming students have inquired about how to connect with other students before their arrival on campus, and how to find prospective roommates.  Here are a few helpful hints and resources:

Facebook

GSU Facebook Page
The Graduate School Facebook Page
Notre Dame Graduate Student Life Facebook Page 

  • Connect with other grad students, learn about events on campus and get recommendations for fun things in Michiana.
  • Add Notre Dame to your education/timeline, and Facebook can help you find others at Notre Dame.
  • Many academic departments, programs and institutes have their own Facebook pages, too, so network to your heart’s content!

Other Online Resources

GSU on Twitter
GSU Website
LinkedIn
myNotreDame
Links to Student Services
Off Campus Resources

Call for Help!

If all else fails, the administrative assistant in your academic program is often your best ally in solving problems and finding information.  Pick up the phone, go old-school, and give them a jingle!  You can find a listing of all graduate programs with contact information at graduateschool.nd.edu

Things I Wish I Knew: A Letter to Incoming Students

I graduate in one week with a MA in Peace Studies from Notre Dame. The two-year program has provided amazing opportunities to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, there are things I wish I knew before coming to the program. I hope they help you in your journey as an incoming student.

  1. Your department or cohort is who you will spend the majority of your time with. The downside is that you do not have as many opportunities to get to know others in different departments. The upside is that you often become very close to those in your program. For an extrovert like me, I tried to overcome this by attending events for graduate students and meeting undergrads at football games and other campus-sponsored events. I also happened to have a few classes with undergrads and enjoyed conversation over coffee and lunch. Additionally, I contacted different professors, faculty, and administrators who I thought would be interesting to get to know and asked them out for coffee.
  2. Sometimes you will feel overwhelmed by the amount of readings, assignments, and papers you have to do. During my first semester, my professors assigned about 500-700 pages of readings each week. Remember to take a deep breath and prioritize your to-do items. Eventually you’ll develop tactics to manage your assignments.
  3. There are a lot of free events, lectures, activities, and food giveaways on campus. I discovered this fairly quickly upon arrival, but think it is important to share. Notre Dame brings in amazing speakers, ranging from Heads of State to activists. While you may be tempted to skip out on certain events because you have a lot of work, consider attending some of these each year. It is also a great way to meet other people and take a break from work.
  4. There are a lot of wonderful resources on campus-from the Rec Sports fitness facilities to the Hesburgh Library and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CSLC). Take advantage of the resources they offer, from kickboxing class and Kung Fu, to foreign language support.
  5. Notre Dame offers a variety of funding opportunities for research and presenting at conferences. Although MA students are not eligible for the same opportunities as Ph.D. students, I was able to secure funding to present at conferences in Italy and Spain. Consider looking at the Graduate School, Nanovic Institute, Institute for Scholarship and Liberal Studies (ISLA), and your home department.
  6. While academics are an important part of your grad school experience, don’t forget to enjoy your time on campus. Because Notre Dame’s academic programs are rigorous, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on maintaining a high GPA. While there is nothing wrong with striving for academic excellence, remember to keep things in perspective. You will develop life-long friends, be mentored by amazing faculty, and get to spend several years at one of the foremost universities in the nation. Remember to enjoy the sun after all the snow has finally fallen, meet new friends, and grow as a person.

Enjoy your time learning, growing, and experiencing all the wonderful opportunities Notre Dame offers.

Go Irish!

Tamara Shaya

Why does a university founded by a French religious order have a leprechaun as its mascot?

Notre Dame Leprechaun LogoIt didn’t always. Our sports teams have been known as the Ramblers, the Rovers, and the Irish Terriers.  But an early association between Irish Immigrants and Catholicism led to a tradition of referring to anyone from Notre Dame as Irish.  While the use of the Fighting Irish moniker dates back to the turn of the 20th century, the image of the leprechaun with fists up ready to fight, was only adopted as the official mascot in 1965. The leprechaun logo is typically only used in conjunction with the University’s athletics teams and not with the academic programs.